Positive Way of Life

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Addressing the Prophet of Islam the Quran enjoins: "Therefore, bear up patiently as did the apostles endowed with constancy. Bear up with patience and do not seek to hasten for them their doom." (46:35)

That is, showing restraint in adverse situations and refraining from negative reaction form the basic principles of Islamic activism. This means that in unfavorable situations no emotional move is made, rather, by avoiding the path of reaction and retaliation, the actions are planned on the basis of realism.

This principle can briefly be called positive activism. That is, without interfering with the prevailing state of affairs one should try to discover the opportunities and avail of them. To initiate one's actions by challenging status quo amounts to choosing a negative starting point. On the other hand, maintaining the status quo and availing the present opportunities amounts to choosing a positive starting point. This method can briefly be called positive status quoism. A complete scheme of positive status quoism can be chalked out in the light of the seerah (biography) of the Prophet.

1. The Prophet of Islam received his first prophetic call in 610 in Makkah. It was dominated by the idolaters who had placed in it 360 idols belonging to various Arabian tribes. Kabah had, therefore become a religious center for all these tribes. The presence of these idols in Kabah was totally against the beliefs of the Prophet, an upholder of monotheism in the true sense of the word. Yet he did not make any effort to upset the status quo prevailing in Makkah, instead he fully engaged himself in availing of whatever opportunities were available, despite the presence of the idols.

In those days Kaba was the meeting point of the inhabitants of Makkah. Meetings were held there almost daily. The Prophet began to make use of these gatherings for the purposes of D'awah. He visited Kabah, where instead of interfering with the idols he would go to the people and recite the verses of the Quran to them. The policy of avoiding the idols and availing of d'awah opportunities resulted in a number of people embracing Islam having been influenced by the verses of the Quran. This wise policy yielded great benefit to the Prophet of Islam. The peaceful atmosphere, which was extremely essential for d'awahactivities, remained undisturbed in Makkah.

2. Positive Status quoism in Social Affairs:

In Makkah, there was a public place known as Dar Al Nadwah. Which served as a political center and was dominated by the idolaters. When their opposition with the Prophet of Islam intensified they managed to take a unanimous decision to boycott the Prophet and his family and his followers. When the boycott too failed to inflict any harm to his mission, the opponents succeeded in issuing a death warrant through this same Dar Al Nadwa.

When the Prophet received this extremely serious news he did not attempt either to revoke the decision of Dar al-Nadwa or launch a protest campaign supported by his followers. On the contrary, what the Prophet did was leave the city quietly for Madina situated at a distance of 300 miles from Makkah. Even after reaching Madina he did not spend his time in any counter move, instead he paid his full attention to the task of D'awah. This was also an example of positive status quoism. In this way, the Prophet, by avoiding direct confrontation with the status quo, found another vast field to continue his peaceful activities.

3. Positive Status quoism in Political Affairs:

When the Prophet migrated to Madina, after thirteen years of his Prophethood, the existing society of Madina was composed of three groups-Muslims, idolaters, and the Jews. Accepting that social set up as it is, the Prophet established a system based on plurality. The status of Madina under this system was that of a city-state, the Prophet being the head of this state. In this set up the other social groups were accorded the right to lead their lives and decide their cases in accordance with their respective religions and cultures.

This set up provided another example of status quoism. It was by accepting the status quo prevailing there that the Prophet began his peaceful D'awah mission. The result was miraculous. The multi-cultural society of the first phase was gradually transformed into a unicultural society in the second phase.

4. Positive status quoism in matters relating to Prestige.

Even after leaving Makkah -his homeland-for Madina, the Makkans did not put an end to their enmity. Now the Makkans decided to launch armed onslaught against him. Apart from several minor skirmishes, two major battles, Badr and Uhud, took place. These wars again disturbed the peaceful atmosphere required to carry out d'awah activities. Therefore the Prophet negotiated with the Makkans and, accepting all their demands unilaterally, entered into a 10 year no war pact known as Hudaybiyah treaty. This was yet another example of positive status quoism. According to this treaty the Prophet accepted the Makkan position exactly according to their demands. Retaining their position the Prophet utilized all the opportunities of D'awah under the existing status quo. This resulted in what has been called an open victory by the Quran (48:1)

5. Positive status quoism in Post Related Affairs:

During his life the Prophet of Islam was a messenger of God as well as the head of the state. After his death the question arose as to who should be chosen to be the head of the state. This issue was settled in the light of this guideline of the Prophet: "Head of the state will be selected from amongst the Quraysh." Apparently it was a strange injunction. For, according to the teachings of Islam, all human beings are equal. None enjoys any superiority over another. In such a situation this guideline of selecting the leader only amongst the Quraysh was tantamount to a clear discrimination. But it was realism, not a case of discrimination. This was another example of positive status quoism. In fact, over the centuries, as per the ancient traditions, the Quraysh had acquired the position of leadership in Arabia. A sudden change in this status quo therefore would have created insurmountable problems. That was the reason why the Prophet advised the Muslims to accept the existing political system. As a result of this wise policy the Arab unity remained intact and the task of Islamic mission continued unhampered even after the departure of the Prophet.

6. Positive Status quoism in State Affairs:

Even after the demise of the Prophet of Islam this policy of positive status quoism continued in the early phase of Islam. One outstanding example is related to the policy adopted by the religious scholars during the latter half of the Umayyad period and the entire Abbasid era. Political system had been corrupted during this period. Yet almost all the great Muslim scholars of those times (Ulama, traditionists, jurists) did not opt for a collision course with the political system. Due to this policy followed by the religious scholars they were saved from the backlash of the Muslim rulers; while those who opted for the course of confrontation with the rulers were removed from the scene.

This policy of avoiding interference in the political system resulted in that great treasure known as the library of Islam. This is a historical fact that almost the entire classical Islamic literature was prepared during this period. The development of Arabic language, its grammar, its calligraphy, the exegesis of the Quran, the collection and editing of the hadith, development of fiqh, preparation of the literature of Kalam etc all was developed during this period.

It is a fact that had the Muslim scholars and ulama of this age holding the political system comparison against it, then, all this precious literature would never have come into existence. For instance the major part of the hadith, which enjoys the status of the second source in Islam would not have been safely transferred to the succeeding generations. Age of the press had not yet dawned. All the treasures were lying in the memory of the scholars. Had they engaged themselves in political confrontations with the rulers all the precious treasures would have been buried along with them in the wake of their assassinations.

Positive status quoism is thus a permanent policy of Islam in social matters. It was by opting for this policy that the Prophet and his companions forged the great history of Islam heralding a new era in all the religious and secular fields of human civilization.


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